The Bonn UN climate talks: What's at stake and what's next?
- 11 Jun 2014, 16:00
- Ros Donald
Bonn's hotels are full of climate officials this week. They're
in town to complete another step toward a deal to cut global
emissions that can replace 1997's Kyoto
The Bonn talks are a relatively small affair, but they still
play an important role in inching countries toward an accord to
limit climate change by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide they
emit. So what's being discussed?
What's the timeline?
Countries signed the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in
1992. Five years later, the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated and
agreed. The convention now has 195 signatories, and the Kyoto
Protocol has 192.
of the Parties (COP) is the UNFCCC's decision-making body, made
up of all the convention's signatories. Representatives meet each
year for the COP meetings.
climate change conference is being held over 12 days until 14 June.
It marks a halfway point between last year's COP meeting in
Warsaw (COP 19) and this year's in Lima this December (COP
At the COPs - much bigger affairs than the talks in Bonn this
week - ministers and negotiators get together to decide the terms
that will help them reach the global deal. Officials plan to have a
draft text for a global deal agreed by the time negotiators and
ministers meet in Peru in December, which contains all the elements
necessary for a negotiation text in 2015.
Then at the next COP, in Paris 2015, delegates will negotiate
the final terms of a new climate accord. It will come in once the
Kyoto protocol expires
What are the parties discussing this
The talks over the 12 days in Bonn focus primarily on
tackling countries' commitments to cut emissions before 2020. But
they also touch on key points related to a new global deal,
intended to replace Kyoto, which is scheduled to be agreed at the
COP in Paris next year.
The UNFCCC says
the negotiations are an important step towards that goal. And some
issues have moved to the forefront of the agenda for the Bonn
Traditionally granted a less-than-starring role at the UNFCCC
negotiations, measures to help adaptation to the effects of climate
change are now starting to be worked on as seriously as pledges to
It's set to become a key priority for negotiations in Peru, with
the host country pushing hard for countries to pay greater
attention to adaptation issues. Liz Gallagher at
environmental thinktank E3G says:
"Adaptation has long been undervalued.
Seen as just a developing country issue centred around a call for
more money. But in fact, it's about protecting our national
interest. Adaptation isn't just about building sea walls,
it's also about managing climate risk. If countries took the threat
of climate change as seriously as they take nuclear deterrence we
would see a vastly different response."
One reason adaptation has gained greater prominence in the talks
may be that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change's latest report presents a far more complete
picture of adaptation research than in previous edition, and
couches discussion of adaptation in the language of risk
The negotiations are also going to be key in deciding how the
draft agreement text is compiled in time for the Lima summit. The
Kishan Kumarsingh, Artur Runge-Metzger and Anna Serzysko, hope to
be able to compile a text themselves.
Based on countries' submissions, in which they suggest items for
the agenda and offer pledges to reduce emissions, the co-chairs
hope to create a document containing all the elements ready for a
global deal, ready to be negotiated.
But there is already resistance to the proposal from some
countries, according to sources, either from those that feel the
chairs are too sympathetic to developed nations, or from countries
that are trying to resist pledges they consider to be too
Fewer ministers than hoped
Some press coverage has focused on the dearth of government
ministers attending the talks. The BBC
says only 50 out of a possible 146 ministers had turned up by the
end of last week. A couple of years ago, negotiators agreed that
ministers would attend in order to check in on their progress and
focus on raising ambition from now until 2020, when the Kyoto
Protocol is to be replaced by the Paris agreement.
Campaigners have been disappointed that so few ministers showed
up - and say the performance of those present has been less than
impressive, bringing little in terms of new commitments to the
table. Alix Mazounie at French NGO Réseau Action Climat says last
week, ministers came to a roundtable on Kyoto ambition last week
"empty handed or did not come at all".
The next step for the UNFCCC process will be December's COP
talks in Lima this year. But before that, UN Secretary General, Ban
ki Moon has invited heads of state to attend a
climate summit on 23 September.
RTCC reports that not many heads of state have yet confirmed
they'll be attending, although it is unlikely many of them will
shun the event in the end. Indeed, Gallagher suggests in a recent
blog that it's likely any big announcements are likely to be
saved until then.
Commenters say it's important countries deliver. Saleemul Huq at
the International Institute for Environment and Development
"It is very important for political
leaders to make public commitments on their level of ambition at
the summit. One of the lessons from the failure to achieve
agreement [at the 2007 COP] in Copenhagen was that the political
leaders came into the process at the very end and by then it was
"[This time, Ban] took the personal,
initiative to invite them well ahead of time to make public
commitments to support a good outcome. The negotiators can then put
the words of their leaders into action in the Paris agreement."
There are some grounds to believe September's meeting could
yield positive results for a global deal on climate. Both
China and the
US last week suggested they might increase the ambition of
their carbon cutting plans. While these announcements haven't yet
fed into the talks at Bonn, there's a chance they could start to
influence negotiations further down the line.
Other countries appear more likely to put up roadblocks to
ambition than before, however. Just yesterday, Australia asked the
UK to join a '
conservative alliance' of countries opposed to 'unwise' action
on climate change and carbon pricing. The UK looks set to
rebuff his approach, however.
September's conference is likely to tempt far more reporters to
file on the state of the climate talks so far. But what's decided
at Bonn is still a key marker on the road to a global deal.